Letting their dreams take flight | Aviation High School

Aviation High School junior Jacob Wagner already had a dream come true. He got to fly an airplane solo for the first time.

Aviation High School students Jacob Wagner

Aviation High School students Jacob Wagner

Aviation High School junior Jacob Wagner already had a dream come true.

He got to fly an airplane solo for the first time.

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had,” Wagner said, beaming. “I was just giggling the whole time. It felt so good to be up in the air; I felt so free.”

This experience was possible because of a discount Wagner received through his enrollment at Aviation High School. The school, which opened in 2004, focuses on preparing students for college and a high-technological workplace.

“It is our goal to become the premier school of choice for science, technology, engineering and math in the Pacific Northwest,” said principal Reba Gilman.

Plans are underway to construct a permanent school on property offered in Tukwila by The Museum of Flight, adjacent to its Airpark. The facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

“We are project-based learning so we believe the move to the new facility will help us better reach our mission,” Gilman said. “The work of school can be like the work outside the classroom and still be academically rigorous, and that with the right instructional approach it is possible for all students to be prepared for higher education and work in a knowledge-based, global economy.”

For the first three years, the school was located on the Duwamish campus of South Seattle Community College, close to Boeing Field, The Museum of Flight and other aviation-related enterprises. The school relocated a few years ago to what was originally Olympic Middle School in Des Moines because of student growth.

“The school is now at capacity of 400 students in grades 9-12,” Gilman said. “The demand for this school is increasing each year.”

Students must apply to get into the school. Gilman said this year, about 50 percent were local students and the rest commuted from surrounding districts, some as far away as Olympia, Everett and Bremerton.

“I came here for the college prep aspect and because I knew it’d be an environment where the students were career oriented,” said senior Jenny Gao.

Gao was able to participate in several job shadow and internship programs throughout her four years at the school. The places included Sea-Tac Airport, Port of Seattle, and a business in London when Gao spent a summer abroad.

“I’ve had a great multitude of experience here and feel really ready for my future,” she said.

Gao hopes to get a degree in engineering, chemical and aerospace systems. She has already received several scholarships.

Freshman Emory Eng said it is great to be at a school with people sharing similar interests.

“We are all interested in technology, science and math and like to talk about it,” Eng said. “We all fit in together.”

Eng said most students can’t wait for the new facility.

“There is such an excitement for it,” he said.”We will be so close to the airplanes we will be able to see them right outside our classes. We will also be able to go to the Museum of Flight’s large library to research.”

The new building’s design is reminiscent of a plane’s fuselage with areas to display aviation-themed projects and artifacts. The building will feature sustainable strategies qualifying the school for Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol certification, which includes energy-use reduction, air quality maintenance, water conservation and heat exchangers that recover 90 percent of the building’s energy.

“This is not going to be your traditional high school,” Gilman said.

Instead of having a gymnasium, the school will feature project labs to display robots, rockets, model and real airplanes. Rather than a library, the school is providing classroom libraries with resources pertaining to each subject and each student will have his/her own computer.

The three-story building will accommodate up to 400 students. Construction and design are expected to cost around $43.5 million.

“This new building means our school will finally have a permanent home with learning spaces that accommodate project-based learning and are easily accessible by public transportation,” Gilman said. “I believe this will help us inspire young people and provide a pipeline of future employees to fill the gaps within the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce.”


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